St. Paul school board elections – a real contest? With the teachers’ union endorsing challenger Jean O’Connell, and refusing to endorse incumbents Elona Street-Stewart, John Brodrick, and Tom Goldstein, the school board race is shaping up to be a real fight, reports the Pioneer Press, despite the fact that no incumbent has lost in the past three election cycles. In addition to O’Connell, who is running as an independent with both union and chamber of commerce endorsements, two Republicans are also in the race — Chris Conner and John Krenik. Then there’s the separate race to fill the seat vacated by Tom Conlon, with DFL and union-endorsed Vallay Varro squaring off against Republican-endorsed Pat Igo.
The achievement gap between students of color and white students and budget issues are at the top of every candidate’s issues list. For more info, see:
Insurance denied: Too fat, too thin, too … raped? After Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert both went after insurance companies for denying coverage to a “fat” baby, UnitedHealth is now in the spotlight for denying coverage to a too-skinny, but healthy, two-year-old, according to the Star Tribune:
Aislin, who weighs 22 pounds, was turned down by UnitedHealth’s Golden Rule subsidiary for not meeting height and weight standards. Children who are considered to be too slight are often viewed as at higher risk for contracting an illness.
After Aislin’s family went on national television, UnitedHealth reversed its decision.
Another insurance company is taking some heat for denying coverage because of a woman’s medical treatment for rape, apparently another pre-existing condition. The Huffington Post Investigative Fund reported her story, and says it’s not the only one.
Meanwhile, Governor Tim Pawlenty, who believes in leaving health care insurance to the insurance companies and keeping the government out of it, is proposing a new interstate compact tolet health insurance companies sell across state lines. The PiPress quotes the Guv: “Our citizens will benefit from more robust competition, leading to increased choices and better values.”
And Paul Krugman reminds us that, when it comes to health care reform, “the facts have a liberal bias:”
Reform with a strong public option is cheaper than reform without — which means that as we get closer to really doing something, rhetoric about socialism fades out, and that $100 billion or so in projected savings starts to look awfully attractive.
Land of 10,000 (polluted?) lakes Environment Minnesota released a new report showing that more than two million tons of toxic chemicals were dumped into Minnesota lakes and rivers in 2007, part of 232 million tons of toxic chemicals dumped in waters across the country. Minnesota ranks 30th among the states in tonnage of toxic chemicals reported.
The full 44-page report, based on the federal government’s Toxic Release Inventory, notes that the TRI covers only industrial pollution, and does not include pollution from wastewater treatment plants, agricultural facilities or other sources.
Pollutant releases from factories, power plants and other industrial facilities are a key contributing factor to the pollution that leaves 46 percent of the nation’s assessed rivers and streams and 61 percent of its assessed lakes unsafe for fishing, swimming or other uses.
The report recommends encouraging the development and use of safer alternatives to toxic chemicals and strengthening enforcement of the Clean Water Act, expanding it to include “headwaters streams, intermittent waterways, isolated wetlands and other waterways for which jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act has been called into question as a result of recent court decisions.”
H1N1, but no shots Rather than the 120 million shots promised for October delivery, only 12.8 million were available by October 20, according to AP. Federal officials are now predicting 50 million doses by mid-November and 150 million in December. Adults need one shot, and children need two.
In a sign of how rapidly the virus is spreading, education officials said 198 schools in 15 states were closed Wednesday because of swine flu, with more than 65,000 students affected. That was up from 88 school closings the day before.
For Minnesota information, call the new Minnesota FluLine – 1-866-259-4655. Be prepared to wait – yesterday was the first day, and call volume was heavy.
R.T. for Dolan No surprise here. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is backing Police Chief Tim Dolan for a second three-year term, reports the Star Tribune, citing an “unusually strong partnership.” After serving for six months as interim chief, Dolan was approved for the position in 2006 by a 12-1 council vote, with only councilmember Ralph Remington dissenting. Remington says he hasn’t changed his mind, but it’s unclear whether the next vote on Dolan will come before the end of the year, when Remington is retiring from the council:
[Remington] was troubled by allegations of institutional racism raised by five high-ranking black officers in a lawsuit, which the city settled for $740,000. Remington said Dolan also hasn’t been consistent in doling out discipline, an issue raised by the Police Federation. He criticized Dolan’s record on diversifying the department, though nearly 19 percent of the department are people of color, the most ever.
Dolan’s supporters point to double-digit decreases in violent crime over the past three years, and say he has disciplined more police officers than any other chief.